Wayne County residents collecting signatures for after-school program millage
By: Brendan Losinski | C&G Newspapers | Published November 15, 2019
WAYNE COUNTY — Wayne County residents are gathering signatures to put an initiative that supports after-school programs on the March 10, 2020, ballot.
The initiative is called Wayne Kids Win! and would levy a 1-mill collection — $1 for every $1,000 of taxable property value — for five years to help fund a variety of after-school programming for youths in the county. It would collect an estimated $55 million annually, which would cost the taxpayer an average of $82 per year.
Mark Fisk is a partner at Byrum Fisk Communications, which is representing the campaign.
“If passed, we will be able to build upon existing and add new after-school programs across Wayne County, including summer programs, workforce development and youth recreation programs that help keep kids safe and on a positive path,” he said. “After-school programs promote safety, improve math and reading, build work readiness skills and provide recreation for kids across Wayne County.”
Fifty-three thousand signatures would be necessary to get it on the ballot.
Shawn H. Wilson is the president and CEO of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Southeastern Michigan, which works to provide safe spaces for young people, give teens fun activities, focus on career pathways so young people can find careers that they’re passionate about, and connect them with adults who can help guide them. He expressed support for the measure.
“When you look at what it takes to be successful as a nonprofit, you have to have multiple revenue streams to stay in operation to weather the ups and downs and the economy,” Wilson said. “For long-term sustainability for after-school providers, having this income stream means you can better serve the community. We’ve had to close some of our clubs throughout southeast Michigan in the years before I came on as CEO, so I can’t help but think that if these revenue streams were available, those clubs could have stayed open.”
Fisk said that the millage stems from budget shortfalls from the county and the state in recent years, which meant organizations were getting less financial assistance than before. He said a wide variety of nonprofit programs would benefit from Wayne Kids Win!
“It’s all programs aimed at providing after-school activities for Wayne County kids and Wayne County families,” Fisk said.
Wilson stressed that the positive impact of such programs echoes beyond just the kids involved in the programs themselves.
“It also provides safe communities,” said Wilson. “It’s common sense; if kids have a safe environment to go to, they are less likely to get into mischief. Communities are made up of diverse groups of folks, whether it’s business owners, government officials or ordinary residents, so everyone has a stake in making sure this next generation has the skills to enter the workforce and can learn to be good citizens.”
“These programs will help keep kids safe and keep kids on the right path,” Fisk said. “There’s a great deal of research that such programs improve graduation rates, help kids stay out of trouble, and help them learn the skills to move forward with their education or into the workforce. They also are proven to reduce dropout risk factors and improve behavior. It also helps support working parents so they can help keep their jobs and continue to support their families.”
Fisk said they need to finish getting support by Dec. 3 for the measure to appear on the next ballot.
“We have to collect 53,000 signatures by Dec. 3, 2019, so we will appear on the countywide ballot in March,” he said. “We have petition gatherers working at various public venues, but people also can contact us on the website, www.waynekidswin.com. I’m confident we will collect enough signatures in time.”
Wilson said groups such as the Boys & Girls Clubs of Southeastern Michigan are trying to spread the word about Wayne Kids Win!
“Our role right now is about awareness,” he said. “We want parents and those in the communities we serve to know about this initiative. We want to get the word out and share with people how it benefits everyone,” Wilson said. “We’re a trusted after-school service provider, so we’ve had a lot of questions from people about Wayne Kids Win!, and we’ve been happy to be able to explain all of this to them.”
He also said that programs such as his can be instrumental in the life of a young person.
“Programs like ours really change lives,” remarked Wilson. “I can’t tell you how many alumni I’ve met who said it not only changed their lives, but saved it. It provided them with a safe space, not only a safe physical location, but a safe space for them to meet others or a safe psychological place. They provide employability skills and open up new opportunities to young people. There’s so many reasons providing after-school programs is important.”